How To Shrink Wrap

Shrink wrapping products for retail sales can be a great choice for business owners seeking a professional packaging option at an affordable price. Many people are confused about the term shrink wrap and do not understand the process.

See each step below to help gain a basic understanding of the shrink wrapping process.

Step One - Determining Equipment

To effectively and professionally shrink wrap Machines to Choose Fromproducts for retail sales requires three key elements.

1. The type of shrink film to be used 

2. A heat sealer to seal open ends of the material

3. A heating source to heat the film so it will shrink and conform to the product.

There are a few applications, such as gift basket shrink bags and some shrink tubing applications that do not require a heat sealer. The majority of shrink wrapping applications do require all of the elements listed above. Below is a brief breakdown of each. 

Shrink Film

Shrink film is primarily made from four types of plastics: Polyolefin, PVC, Polyethylene, and Polypropylene. Each type of material offers different characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages. Polypropylene shrink wrap is the least common, the other three types of films are used in multiple industries around the world. In a recent blog post a contributor helps to describe the differences and characteristics of each type of film.

Once the type of shrink wrap is established, users should consider the form of shrink film they will use. Shrink film can come in tubing, bags, centerfold rolls, and single wound (flat) rolls. Here is a complete list of shrink wrap products including different forms of shrink film available.

Heat Sealer

The cost of a sealer is directly related to the seal width and the desired levels of production. A small four inch hand sealer is much less expensive than a large 24"x32" L-Bar sealer, but efficiency is much less. Our guide to shrink wrap machine costs will help determine what type of sealers to consider.

Hand Impulse Sealers  L Bar Sealer

Heating Source

The heating element applies heat to the shrink film after the open ends have been sealed. The heat shrinks the film to conform to the products being packaged. The two primary forms of heating elements are heat guns and shrink tunnels. A heat gun is a fraction of the cost compared to a heat tunnel, but has many disadvantages compared to a shrink tunnel. Our guide to shrink wrap machine costs referenced above details the benefits and costs of shrink tunnels and heat guns.

Heat Shrink Gun  Shrink Tunnel

Step Two - Proper Measurements

Proper measurements will help determine the size and form of shrink film to consider, the size of sealer needed, and the size of shrink tunnel if needed. We recommend length x width x height measurements of the largest product being wrapped. Purchasing shrink film, a heat sealer, and a shrink tunnel to accommodate the largest product will enable users to wrap smaller products as well.

Depending on production levels, using different sizes of film can reduce waste and cost. If using shrink bags, multiple sizes and proper product measurements are essential. The same is true for tubing when wrapping products of different sizes.

How To Measure

To measure for shrink film the best option is to measure the circumference and length of each product. The circumference measurement is the measurement around the product at the widest point. See the illustration below.

Round Object Circumference measurement       Circumference Measurement For Shrink Wrapping


Formula For Centerfold Shrink Film

Width + Depth + 2 Inches = Width of Roll Needed

Formula For Shrink Tubing

Circumference + 10%  ÷2 = Width of Tubing Needed

Formula For Shrink Bags

Circumference + 10% ÷ 2 = Width of Bag Needed

Length + Depth + 2 Inches = Length of Bag Needed

Step Three - Sealing Open Ends

Once measurements and proper film sizes are determined, the rest is easy. Place the product in the film roll, bag, or tubing. Close the sealing bar on the open ends of the film approximately half an inch from the product and make seals.

Step Four - Apply Heat

Once open ends are sealed, apply heat with a shrink gun or shrink tunnel. If the film balloons and fills with air when heat is applied, a small vent hole may be required to allow air to escape.

Check out our "How to" videos below.

How To Shrink Wrap With an I-Bar Sealer

How To Shrink Wrap an L-Bar Sealer

How To Shrink Wrap With a Shrink Packaging System

How To Shrink Wrap With an Impulse Sealer

How To Shrink Wrap a Gift Basket